Best Shoes For Kayaking (What Kind To Wear)


Best Shoes for Kayaking

The best shoes for kayaking range from sandals to waterproof boots and everything in between. But depending on the weather, the water, and how much walking you’ll have to do on your trip, it’s important that you choose the best kayaking shoes that you can afford.

We’ve talked before about what to wear kayaking.

But what are the best shoes for kayaking? Any of many brands of water shoes are the best shoes for kayaking. And in general, the best shoes for kayaking are ones that will protect your feet while you’re out on the water. Many types of shoes will work as kayaking shoes, including sandals like Tevas and Chocos.

We’ll go into detail and tell you where you can find the best brands of water shoes below.

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Best Shoes for Kayaking

Here’s a list of the best shoes for kayaking:

  • Teva Sandals – Best warm weather shoes for kayaking
  • Chaco Men’s Sport Sandal – Second best warm weather shoes for kayaking
  • Merrell Water Shoes – Best shoes for kayaking and hiking
  • NRS Freestyle Wet shoe – Best kayak shoe for cold weather
  • Speedo Men’s Surfwalker – Best shoes for kayaking and hiking on the beach
  • Bodyglove 3T Barefoot – Best shoes for kayaking minimalists
  • Neosport Low-top neoprene boot – Best kayak shoes to keep your feet warm and dry

Those are the best options for kayaking footwear that will ensure you protect your feet while you’re out on the water, and we’ll go into detail and link to how you can buy them below, including each one’s strengths and weaknesses.

But the truth is, many brands and styles or footwear will work as kayaking shoes.

In general, what kind of kayak shoes you can wear kayaking breaks down into a few categories. Each has its own best use, but all of them are great kayak shoes as long as you know each of their limitations.

Flip Flops

Though not optimal, ordinary flipflops that you wear to the beach are decent kayaking shoes. Better than bare feet, for sure.

Pros:

  • They’re inexpensive, as little as a couple dollars, so if you lose them it’s not that big a deal
  • You can find them everywhere from Walmart to gas station convenience stores
  • They dry out quickly because they’re made of rubber or plastic
  • They store easily because they are flat and easy to put in a dry bag or small backpack
  • Most of them float, so if they do fall off you’ll be able to retrieve them

Cons:

  • Your feet can get cold and wet very quickly
  • They fall off easily so you could lose them on a river
  • They’re not that comfortable to walk in, especially if you’re carrying a heavy load like your kayak
  • They aren’t very durable and tend to break at the little between-the-toe connector, rendering them useless

Sport Sandals

Teva and Choco open-toe sandals are my two favorite warm weather shoes for kayaking. They offer comfort, support and cushioning. And they’re great for leisurely lounging around a fire after a hard day kayaking.

Tevas Sandals – Tevas are my pick for easy and versatile kayaking shoes. They’ve been around forever, they’re proven and popular open-toed sandals. They have Velcro straps that wrap around the front and heel of your foot. The straps are adjustable so they won’t fall off your feet. This makes them a great option for all types of kayaking. There are so many Teva styles to choose from, you’ll probably find one you like.

Chaco Men’s Classic Sport SandalChacos are open-toed, has adjustable straps, and is perfect for kayaking because it has all the features mentioned above. If you feel uncomfortable with an open toe, skip this selection. There are also a women’s Chacos as well.

Pros:

  • They’re around $30-40, so not too expensive
  • They’re super comfortable, more so than flipflops for sure
  • They have a lot of support. Enough that you can hike in them and carry heavier loads.
  • They have excellent traction
  • Their straps won’t chafe and give you blisters
  • They are tough and durable
  • The Velcro straps adjust well and allow you to tighten or loosen them throughout the day
  • You can wear socks with them
  • They store easily because they’re flat
  • Most of them float
  • They have an anti-microbial foot bed

Cons:

  • Your feet can get cold and wet easily
  • If you do wear socks with them, your socks can get wet and sandy easily.
  • Little to no ankle support for more aggressive hiking and load carrying
  • If you get sand in the Velcro, they’re a bugger to clean

Athletic Shoes

Typically, shoes and water don’t mix that well. But, athletic (tennis) shoes are generally made with holes or thinner, porous materials to allow for more breathability. While these shoes may let water inside, they also drain quickly. Tennis shoes, as long as they’re made from breathable, quick-drying materials, are a better kayak shoes than sandals or flipflops, especially when the weather is chilly or cold.

Here’s a beach/tennis-type shoe that gives you the flexibility of a walking shoe and the versatility of being a pretty good all around, warm-weather kayaking shoe.

  • Speedo Men’s Surfwalker – A classic pool/beach shoe that can also be used in a kayak. It is thinner in design, so walking on rougher terrain may be painful. It has a mesh design to have that watertight protection while on the water.

Pros:

  • You probably already have a pair of tennis shoes you could wear as kayaking shoes
  • Tennis shoes give you a little more support than flip flops or sandals
  • Microfiber tennis shoes will dry out relatively quickly, although not as fast as sandals
  • Worn with socks, tennis shoes will keep your feet warmer in chilly or cold weather
  • You can walk pretty far in tennis shoes without chafing or getting blisters

Cons:

  • Some tennis shoes don’t dry out that quickly
  • If the laces break, you’ll lose some stability
  • When they get wet, they tend to lose support at the ankle and heal
  • If they get sandy, they’re almost impossible to clean during a trip

Crocs

Are Crocs good for kayaking? Crocs make great kayaking shoes. They’re comfortable, breathable, and have holes that drain water very well. Also, Crocs have a strap on the back that helps to keep them on your feet. And the material Crocs are made of lets them float, which is great should they slip off and fall in the water.

Pros:

  • Crocs are lightweight and pretty durable
  • They have a heel strap to help prevent them from falling off
  • You can wear socks with them
  • They’re super lightweight, weighing even less than sandals
  • They’re packable and don’t take up too much space
  • They drain quickly when they get a lot of water in them
  • They float

Cons:

  • They have very little ankle support for hiking
  • They do fall of more easily than Tevas or tennis shoes
  • The holes in them allow water and sand to get inside

Water Shoes for Kayaking

Do I need water shoes for kayaking? Whether you’re a beginner or expert, you need a pair of water shoes for kayaking. Water shoes are arguably the best kayak shoes. They have a sole that’s stiffer with more grip than normal shoes. So wearing them in wet areas allows you to keep your footing and balance better than other shoes.

How do I choose water shoes for kayaking?

Choosing the best water shoes comes down to your personal preference. Because there are so many versions of the water shoe, you can choose between various options: open vs. closed-toe, different materials, versatility, and so much more. 

For kayaking, the best water shoes are ones that provide versatility. This is because kayaking not only involves moving in and out of the kayak to launch it and get out of the water, but also sitting in the boat for an extended period without getting the chance to air out your feet if they get wet or sweaty. 

Here are features to look for when searching for the best water shoes for you:

  • Comfort – Overall, you’ll want comfortable shoes that allow your foot some space to feel free but not enough space that allows for rubbing or slippage. Any rubbing or slipping can lead to blisters and cuts.
  • Durability – The water shoe’s durability is also crucial as you could get in and out of your kayak at various locations having unknown conditions (sand, gravel, rocks, parking lot, docks, etc.). A shoe that can withstand different environments will help keep your feet comfortable in any situation.
  • Waterproof – Any time you’re out on the water, you’ll want a waterproof shoe, or at the very least, one that can dry quickly. Remember: waterproof doesn’t mean that no water will get inside your shoe; it just means your shoe is made from fabric designed to keep water out while letting air in to keep your feet dry.
  • Breathability – Next is a shoe’s breathability. Most water shoes will be made from mesh fabric, allowing air to get inside and dry your feet.
  • Secure Fit – A snug fitting shoe helps maintain your overall comfort level while kayaking. You want your feet to be able to breathe, but you also don’t want your shoes to fall off easily.
  • Style – The style of the water shoes you choose should depend on whether you plan to wear and use them for something other than kayaking. For instance, if you plan on camping and kayaking, having just one pair of shoes fit for both activities can lessen the amount you have to pack. 

In addition, you should also consider the type of kayaking you plan on doing. For example, a pedal kayak might require a more athletic shoe to ensure you can pedal without your feet slipping off the pedals or getting scratched.

Here are some great water shoe options:

  • Bodyglove 3T Barefoot – If you ever wanted a glove for your feet, this shoe is the perfect match for you! Putting your toes in individual spaces instead of bunching up in one tight area may provide some relief for people, and this shoe can be useful while kayaking.
  • NeoSport Low Top Pull-On Boot – For those looking for complete coverage up to their ankles, these Neosports are perfect. With a variety of sizes as well, you can choose how high up the boot will be on your ankle. The sole is puncture-resistant, and the boot is water-resistant.

Best Kayak Shoes for Cold Weather

What are the best kayak shoes for cold weather? The best kayak shoes for cold weather are the NRS Freestyle. They’re light, durable, and comfortable. Thick enough to keep you warm in chilly to cold weather, but flexible enough to hike in. Support bands give your ankles more stability than just a wetsuit bootie. And they have more toe room.

  • NRS Freestyle WetshoeThe NRS Wetshoe is an interesting-looking shoe: It has the appearance of a wet sock, but it has the grip on the bottom of the shoe to allow for comfort while walking on land.

Best Shoes for Kayaking and Hiking

What are the best water shoes for kayaking and hiking? The best water shoes for kayaking and hiking are Columbia Drainmaker water shoes. These shoes drain water well and have great breathability. They have comfortable cushioning, impact absorbing soles, and great traction to protect you and your feet on long hikes. Also, they slide on and off easily.

  • Columbia Drainmaker Water Shoe – If you’re looking for a water shoes that great for kayaking and hiking, the Columbia Drainmaker Water Shoes are a great option.

And these Merrells are another good option too:

  • Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Water Shoe – For those looking for a water shoe that’s good for kayaking and hiking, Merell Blaze Water Shoes are a great option. It is designed with breathable holes that allow water to flow in and out quickly and dry faster.

We’ve already mentioned some other good choices for kayak shoes that are also great for hiking:

  • Tevas and Chocos in warm weather
  • Tennis shoes in cooler or cold weather
  • Closed-toe Water shoes that are designed for hiking, like the Columbia Drainmakers above

Kayak Shoes Wrap Up

There you have it. Whether you want to lounge around on your kayak in the warm sun, or paddle in frigid waters, protecting your feet while kayaking will require kayak shoes that are up to that task. Sandals for warm weather, light but stiff water shoes for kayaking and hiking, and some warm neoprene kayaking shoes or boots for colder weather. That should keep your feet in great shape for kayaking all day.

Steve W

I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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